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Program looks to reduce high fatality rate for farming industry

Agriculture occupations continue to have one of the highest fatality rates in the nation. In fact, farming jobs have a workplace fatality rate eight times higher than all other work industries combined.

In 2011, 557 agriculture work fatalities and thousands of injuries were reported among farm, forestry and fishing workers. The high risk of fatal farm accidents has been a concern for many working in the agriculture industry. Making matters worse, a majority of agricultural worksites are not regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

In addition to 85 percent of agriculture workplaces not having OSHA enforcement, they also don't have to report information about non-fatal workplace injuries to federal agencies. This creates a very unsafe environment for farmers because workplaces may not be following OSHA safety regulations and may be putting workers at risk for suffering a serious or fatal injury.

While it is disappointing that farm workers continue to have the highest fatality risk, there may be some good news for future safety programs in the agricultural industry. There is a government program that focuses on agricultural, forestry and fishing (AgFF) safety that started in 1990. The AgFF program currently has nine offices throughout the country that research and educates these industries about injury prevention as well as farm safety for children.

The AgFF program is being reviewed by agricultural industry leaders to see how it can help reduce farm accident and other injuries that workers in the agricultural industry often suffer. The panel reviewing the effectiveness of the program reported that it has already contributed to an overall decrease in work injuries and fatalities in agricultural, forestry and fishing jobs. Reports show that fatalities have declined by 40 percent from 1992 to 2011.

The AgFF program seems very promising to the agricultural industry because the education programs have been effective in reducing deaths and injuries for workers. The review panel said that the program is not only inexpensive for agricultural businesses but it would also reduce the costs related to workers being injured on the job. For all these reasons, the review panel said that the AgFF program is very effective and hopes that more companies will start using the program to protect their workers and eventually decrease the high rate of fatalities for agriculture workers in the U.S.

Source: Farm Futures, "Program Receives High Marks for Limiting Ag Injuries, Fatalities," Feb. 13, 2013

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